|Malaysiakini Team | Jan 10, 09 10:33pm|
|The police have arrested 21 people, including Klang MP Charles Santiago and several top leaders of PSM, at an anti-war vigil at Dataran Merdeka, Kuala Lumpur.
The vigil was organised by Anti-War Coalition to show support to the victims of war and aggression in Palestine and Sri Lanka.
About 200 people had gathered at about 8pm for the vigil, which was declared illegal by the police who were also present at the venue.
About 100 light strike force personnel were on hand to control and disperse the crowd.
The crowd was ordered to disperse and the 21 were arrested for their failure to leave the area.
They were then taken to the Dang Wangi district police headquarters. They are still being held at the police station.
Among those held were Parti Sosialis Malaysia leaders Dr Nasir Hashim and S Arutchelvan, PKR’s Kuala Langat MP Abdullah Sani and several activists from Suaram and Jerit. Nasir is also the Kota Damansara state assemblyperson.
Abolish ISA Movement activist Norlaila Othman was also among those arrested. Also taken in was a teenager. They are believed to be investigated for illegal assembly.
Small crowd at police station
Eye-witnesses told Malaysiakini that the anti-war protesters had first gathered at the Bar Council building before beginning to march towards Dataran Merdeka – some 300 metres away.
Upon reaching the historic field, they then begun to lit their candle lights and unfurl their anti-war banners. These were stopped by the police.
Attempts by Charles and Nasir to negotiate with the police to seek permission for a quick vigil were also turned down.
A small crowd had already gathered at the police station to show support for those arrested. They are being watched by the Federal Reserve Unit.
This is the first time the police have acted against an anti-war vigil in recent days.
Yesterday thousands had marched to the US embassy to object the Israeli aggression in Gaza without any police intervention.
Similarly another group of protesters in Kampung Baru was also allowed to burn the US and Israeli flags in the middle of the road yesterday afternoon without any police interference.
A police mockery
Meanwhile an activist narrated to AFP on the arrests.
“We were holding a candlelight vigil to demand the end to the killing of innocent lives in Gaza,” said E Parameswari, 30, an activist with Jerit, a group championing the rights of marginalised people in the country.
“Police used force to break up the gathering and arrested the 21 people including opposition lawmakers Charles, Abdullah Sani and Nasir,” she told AFP.
“Police said our gathering was illegal,” she said.
Parameswari condemned the police action, adding that the demonstrators did not provoke the police.
“The police action is an abuse of power,” she added.
Arutchelvan, the secretary-general of the PSM, told AFP they were being held in a police lockup.
“Our arrest makes a mockery of the position taken by Malaysia to condemn Israel.
“The way the police acted against us is no difference from the way the Israelis are treating the Palestinian people,” he said from the police station.
Kuala Lumpur police chief Mohammad Sabtu Osman confirmed that they were arrested and taken in for questioning.
“They were arrested while gathering at the Dataran and taken to the Tun HS Lee police station for questioning,” he added.